Can the Ketogenic Diet Be Effective Epilepsy Treatment?

In 1924, a maverick young doctor at the Mayo Clinic named Russell Wilder came up with a diet that he thought would help people with epilepsy reduce the number of seizures they experienced. The diet has high fat content, is low on carbs, and provides the proper amount of protein.

Somehow, it’s enough to change the way the body uses energy. The liver converts fat into acids and ketone bodies; it also lowers blood sugar levels and helps the body use insulin more effectively.

A urine test indicates ketone levels to help people on the ketogenic diet “stay in the zone.” [Source:Wikipedia]
Dr. Wilder discovered that when ketone levels are raised, known as ketosis, the number of seizures his patients with epilepsy experienced diminished. The Ketogenic Diet faded into the background as anti-seizure medications began coming to market in the 1940s, but here we are in 2016, and it’s once again finding favor among neurologists and their patients. It’s now prescribed if two prior treatments have failed–and, it’s worth noting, medical supervision is necessary.

A recent study of 136 people with epilepsy confirmed Wilder’s long ago research, but the study is taking things one step further: scientists are examining whether a particular genetic component may make the Ketogenic Diet more effective in certain patients. It’s already been demonstrated that patients with Glut 1 deficiency also benefit from this diet. It will be interesting to see if other disease states will come into focus as a result of the study.


Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

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